Why I Practice Stitch Designs

Since I’m on a Mac, I don’t have StitchWiz anymore. (I know you can run a virtual Windows machine, but it’s such a hassle). So I use a cross stitch software program – MacStitch. For my rugs that are Basketweave, this works well. But when you want to do more advanced stitches, it can cause problems.

I started working on a new design – creatively called the Blue/Green pillow. It’s based on a Moroccan tile that is used for walls.


I didn’t like the border, so I’ll do something different. But the center is a nice, simple repeat. I decided to make the squares 8 stitches square, and the “wings” 8 threads long. Simple, right? No. This is why I do practice stitching on all my designs.

Blue/green practice

The two light blue squares on the top are 8 stitches across and down. Across the top and bottom, there are 8 holes, but on the left and right there are 9 holes because you come up in the first hole and then do your stitches across 8 threads. The wings won’t match up and you don’t get the nice diamond in the middle. The square on the bottom is 8 threads across the top and bottom and 7 threads on the left and right – the only way to get the wings to share holes at the corners and create and diamond properly. I have the whole chart done for this and should have done the practice stitching first! But I now have the proper number of stitches for the design in the middle of the pillow.

The next problem is deciding which stitch to use for the outer border. Above is the Herringbone stitch, which I don’t like now that I’ve done a sample. I’ll play with some other stitches and see what I can come up with.

Reasons why I practice stitch –

  • To make sure the design works the way I have it charted or envisioned it
  • To try out stitches to find out what works/looks best
  • To make sure the colors I’ve selected will work together
  • To get an idea of how much thread it takes to stitch the design
  • To play and have fun with a new design – that’s really what it’s all about

Introducing ASOW – a tall ship

ASOW was a Russian ship line from the 1800s. The canvas is from a painting by Danish artist C. W. Eckersberg, which he painted in 1828. The painting now resides in the National Gallery of Denmark. DH decided it would be fun and challenging for me to try a tall ship and this is the one we decided I should start on first. I have two cross stitch designs of tall ships as well for future projects. Here is the full canvas.

ASOW canvas

I started with the sky and will work my way down the canvas. I’m using old Needle Necessities Inc floss, three plies at a time. I have four different threads for the different colored clouds, a blue overdye, and just plain white. All threads for this are coming from my stash. The stitch is Swirl Variation 2 from Ruth Schmuff’s iStitches, Volume 4. It moves along quickly. Here’s where it is today:

ASOW Prog 1

I’m not sure about the blue. It’s a little brighter here than it is in person, but it may be too dark. I may switch to a lighter blue floss, not overdye, in order to tone it down a little.

I’ve started the first mast with a golden brown floss and white Basketweave for the small white flag at the top. I’m not happy with the flag. I tried slanted Gobelin but it looked terrible, so I’m still thinking of what else I can try. The ropes for the rigging will be done in #8 brown perle after the clouds are stitched. I’ve taken close up photos to help place them correctly. I’ll stitch the sky/clouds down to the first crossbar and then try the first of the rigging. This will definitely be a challenge – but fun!

Fall Quilt – Progress 3

I now have one leaf in the center complete and more of the background is done as well. Here is the first quarter so far:

Fall Quilt corner

The leaves are being stitched using Threadworx # 1044 (Chili Peppers). This is one of my favorite overdyes – love fall colors. The stitches used are Mosaic, Diagonal Mosaic, T Stitch, Scotch stitch, and Jacquard. I won’t change it now, but I’m beginning to think the leaves should be a little bigger.

I’ve started the second corner and leaf, so here is the whole piece so far:

Fall Quilt 2

I won’t do the actual center until I have the four leaves in place. When the top half is complete, I’ll scroll down to do the other two corners. Let’s see how far I can get by this time next week.

Fall Quilt – Progress 2

I’ve finished all of the Delectable Mountains border now. So it was time to start working on the center section of the quilt block. I played with acorns for the corners. The first one was not quite in the correct spot, so I moved to the second corner and got it right. (I’ll go back and rip out the first set in the next day or two. The acorns were stitched with 3 plies of floss for the cap and all 6 plies for the bottom of the acorn.

Fall Quilt -2

With a corner done, I could start filling in the background a little, using Ecru DMC #5 perle cotton. I don’t want to do a lot of background until I do some of the middle. I don’t want to rip any of it out.

The center is going to have leaves stitched with ThreadWorx overdyed floss. I found the center the did one stem and started the first leaf last night.


I only did the first set of the leaf, using Mosaic stitch. On the top is 4 plies of the floss used as it comes off the skein. On the right side, I reversed two of the plies to blend the colors together more. I’m not sure which one I like more. I’m leaning toward using the floss as it comes. I think it will look a little better than way. What do you think? I’ll work on restitching the first corner acorns this evening while I try to decide (and wait for your comments as well).



Purple Heron by Melissa Shirley – Progress 3

With just 1-2 hours to work on this each week, progress is slow. I wanted to see how my idea of overdyes of different colors would work for the ground around the purple heron’s feet. I had just started it last time you saw the canvas. It’s about half done now, using the Hungarian stitch for the whole area. The gray/brown thread is Flax n Color. The olive overdye is an Anchor variegated thread. The multi-color one is an old Needle Necessities floss. All of them from my stash.

Heron 3A

I think I need to decide how to stitch the feet before I finish the section around the feet.

I also finished the left side of the bottom border. Now to figure out that frog.

Heron 3B

I don’t know how much time I’ll have for this after this month. The new rug is scheduled to begin on June 1st. But I’ll find a few hours here and here.

Purple Heron by Melissa Shirley – Progress 2

I haven’t been working on this very often. Still trying to get a handle on it. But here it is so far:

P Heron 2

Three flowers have been completed and the background, etc. is completed halfway to the frog. Lots of border work is done, because I wanted to start playing with the bottom part of the center.

Heron Testing 2

I using as much as possible from my stash for this project. Looking at the water on the left side, I decided to try out two Bravo overdyes. I cut out the blue on the lighter overdye on the left and will use it for all the lightest areas. The darker sections will be done with the second Bravo, just as it is. I’m using two plies of the thread. The stitch is the Wave Stitch that I saw on Sheena’s Sweet Stitches blog. I started and ripped several times until I finally got the pattern set up. I think it’s going to be great!

Heron Testing 3

The right side will be done with Hungarian (I think). At the bottom, right you can see that I’ve done a small section, using the Flax ‘n Color at the top. The light gray and brown work well with the painted canvas. I’ll continue up the right side with this thread. Most of this section will continue in Hungarian using the Needle Necessities overdye. I’m thinking that I’ll stitch the green at the bottom with similar colored thread, but that may get too complicated – so we’ll see.

I said I wasn’t in a hurry to get this one done, and I only work on it 1-2 hours a week. You probably won’t see it again for a month or two.

Purple Heron by Melissa Shirley – A Start

Where in the world do you start on a huge project like this one?

Purple Heron

I’ve been staring at this on and off for several weeks. I’ve pulled lots of threads that I can use – solid colors and overdyes. I’ve been thinking about stitches. I finally decided last week that I need to pick an area and just get started on it. I didn’t want to start with the herons themselves first – too large an area. I need to ease into this. So I decided that I should figure out what to do for the green background and the gray borders first.

Testing stitches

I didn’t want to use Basketweave for all that green, so I tried out Alicia’s Lace and I think I’ll stay with that. I did the large area on the left so I could set up the pattern and then work outward from there. I’m using 4 strands of Splendor.

Next was the gray border. I’ve tried about 10 different stitches and ripped most of them out. The three showing are Rice stitch going up the left side, couching on the left, and Overlaid Cross stitch on the right. It’s hard to see in the photo, but instead of laying Splendor and then couching it down, I tried dark gray Flair and then couched it with Splendor. It’s interesting and I like it, but I don’t like the unstitched rows above and below the Flair. That left the Overlaid Cross stitch which I really like – decision made.

I’ve done a little of the Basketweave/Tent stitches for the branches and started on the first flower. I’ve never done a flower in Buttonhole stitch before so this was a first try. I didn’t like how it was working out so I pulled the bottom half out and started again.

P Heron 1

This is the second try at the flower today. I need to use more plies of Splendor so it will cover better and I still didn’t get all the white covered at the top, left. The center is pale yellow and I think it needs a darker yellow so it will show up better. The center is a French Knot in dark olive Frosty Rays (I like this part!). I’ve done quite a bit of the gray border (with a Rhodes stitch in the corner) and I’m pleased with that.

The mandala is getting a lot of attention in the mornings upstairs, but I’ll try to work on this a little each week. I’m in no hurry on this. I want to play with threads and stitches for the various areas and eventually work on it more. But it’s a start….